Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals
D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeffrey S. Gray, Asst. Solic. Gen.,
Sandi Johnson, Salt Lake City, for petitioner.
J. Seppi, David P.S. Mack, Salt Lake City, for respondent.
Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the
Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Durham,
Justice Pearce, and Judge Powell joined.
recused himself, Justice Himonas does not participate herein;
Fourth District Court Judge Kraig J. Powell sat.
ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE
The Utah Code prescribes two sets of offenses for drivers who
cause death or serious bodily injury with alcohol or drugs in
their system. Under the DUI provisions of the code it is a
third degree felony to cause death or serious bodily injury
while under the influence of alcohol or any drug "to a
degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating
a vehicle." The "measurable substance"
provisions set forth a related offense. Under these
provisions it is a second degree felony to cause death or
serious bodily injury with any "measurable" amount
of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug in the person's
Thomas Ainsworth challenges the constitutionality of these
provisions. Ainsworth was convicted of three second degree
felonies under the measurable substance provisions. But he
asserts constitutional grounds for a reduction of each charge
to a third degree felony under the DUI provisions. And he
also challenges the decision to impose consecutive sentences
for the three counts against him.
The court of appeals agreed with Ainsworth in part. It deemed
the measurable substance crime a "lesser offense"
because the measurable substance provisions do not require
proof of a driver's impairment. With this in mind, the
court of appeals concluded that the classification of
Ainsworth's crimes as second degree felonies under the
measurable substance provisions ran afoul of the Uniform
Operation of Laws Clause of the Utah Constitution. And it
accordingly vacated Ainsworth's convictions and remanded
for the entry of third degree felony convictions and for
resentencing. In so doing, however, the court of appeals
rejected Ainsworth's challenge to the imposition of
consecutive sentences, affirming the district court's
sentencing to that degree.
We reverse in part and affirm in part. First, we uphold the
constitutionality of the legislature's classification of
offenses in the DUI and measurable substance statutes and
reverse the court of appeals' decision vacating
Ainsworth's second degree felony convictions under the
Uniform Operation of Laws Clause. Second, we affirm the court
of appeals' decision upholding the imposition of
consecutive sentences for the three counts of conviction.
Accordingly, we reinstate the convictions and sentences as
entered and imposed against Ainsworth in the district court.
On Christmas Eve 2011, Thomas Ainsworth drove his car over a
median and crashed head-on into another vehicle. An
18-month-old boy was killed and both of his parents were
seriously injured in the accident.
Ainsworth had methamphetamine in his system at the time of
the accident. He was charged with three counts of causing
substantial bodily injury or death while negligently driving
a car with a measurable amount of a Schedule II controlled
substance in his body. The charged offenses were second
degree felonies under Utah Code section 58-37-8(2).
Ainsworth moved to amend the charges on constitutional
grounds. First, he challenged the classification of his
alleged offenses-as second degree felonies-under the
measurable substance provisions of the Utah Code. He noted
that the alleged offenses would have been classified as third
degree felonies if charged under the DUI provisions of the
code. And he challenged the rationality of the
legislature's decision to increase that classification
through the measurable substance provisions under the Uniform
Operation of Laws Clause of the Utah Constitution.
Ainsworth also asserted an alternative basis for challenging
the measurable substance charges under the Uniform Operation
of Laws Clause. He noted that the measurable substance
provisions recognize a defense for those who have a
prescription for the controlled substance, or otherwise use
the substance in a legal manner. And he alleged that this
amounts to irrational discrimination in favor of those who
have a prescription and against those who don't.
The district court rejected both arguments. It upheld the
prosecution's decision to classify the charges against
Ainsworth as second degree felonies under the measurable
Ainsworth reserved his right to appeal but pled guilty to the
three second degree felonies under the measurable substance
provisions. The district court then sentenced Ainsworth to
three prison terms of one to fifteen years. Over
Ainsworth's objection, ...